Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,125 pages of information and 245,598 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Buildwas Bridge

From Graces Guide

Designed by Thomas Telford. Opened in 1796, this was the second major bridge to be built in iron. It was demolished in 1905.

The present steel and concrete bridge was built in 1992.

1801 '... The second iron bridge was built over the same river [Severn], about two miles above the former one, at a place called Buildwas; it.was erected at the expence of the county of Salop, agreeably to plan, and under the direction Mr. Telford, who is employed as surveyor of the public works of that county: it was also cast at Coaldbrookdale in 1795 and 1796 and consists of one arch 130 ft in the span, and rises, from the spring to the soffit of the arch, 27 feet. In this bridge, as it was necessary to keep the roadway as low possible, the principle of the Schaffhausen bridge was in some degree adopted ; the outside ribs are made as high the tops of the railing; they are connected with the ribs that bear the covering plates by means of pieces of iron, dovetailed in the form of king-posts. The plates which form the covering over the lower ribs are cast with deep flanches are laid close to each other, and form an arch of themselves, so that, altogether, the bridge is compact and firm. The weight of iron is 173 tons 18 1/2 cwt.- some similar bridges, and an aqueduct (the first made of iron over a navigable canal), have also been made under Mr. Telford's directions, in Shropshire. ....'[1]

From The Engineer in 1906[2]:-

'The demolition of the bridge has revealed several interesting structural features which, together with some dimensions, may be described. There are three lower ribs under the flooring, and two side ribs intersecting the former. The floor plates run the full width of the bridge, and every third plate is bolted to the middle lower rib. There are six brick arches at each end, the smallest being 2ft. 6in. in diameter. The camber in the old bridge is 5ft., and the span between the faces of the abutments measures 129ft. 4 1/2in. The width of the roadway is 17ft., and the depth of road metal is 3ft. at the crown, and 5ft. 6in. at the ends against the brick arches. On clearing out the road metal it was found that on the top of the floor plates there was a layer of 4in. of damp clay puddled in, and that a number of stays had been inserted to stiffen the structure, and to prevent it from spreading. The total weight of ironwork in the bridge is 173 tons.

'The failure of the bridge was primarily due to the fact that no allowance had been made for expansion, with the result that it had buckled about 1ft. upstream. Further, there had been some slight disposition for the abutments to slide inwards which, together with the lack of room for expansion, had been sufficient to break the back of the structure at the crown. The mischief must have been detected early in the bridge's history, and as the roadway was found to be pressing outwards the above-mentioned stays were put in - it is said by a local blacksmith. The bridge was in a very unsafe condition when a few months ago the Shropshire County Council made an examination, and resolved to supersede it by a modern structure. The closing of the bridge was decided upon not a day too soon, for subsequent investigation revealed the fact that a heavy gale would probably have caused it to collapse without any warning. Yet, apart from the fractures in the plates caused by the buckling and straining, the ironwork and bolts are in perfect condition.

'The new bridge is being constructed outsi e the old by Messrs. E. C. and J. Keay, of Darlaston. It is a bowstring lattice girder structure, having exactly the same span as the old one. The camber in the new bridge is, however, only 1ft., and the difference in the road level at the crown between the old and new amounts to 8ft. 6in. The n ew brid

'The ironwork in old Buildwas bridge has been bought by the Coalbrookdale Company, which cast it 110 years ago. It is hoped that the section of one of the outer arched ribs, both which are inscribed "Cast at Coalbrookdale, Anno 1796," will be preserved and and set up in the locality as a memento. ....'

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Kentish Gazette - Friday 4 September 1801
  2. The Engineer 1906/02/02